7/10/17 “Because I Can, Sir”! Journal writing for July
Waiting for Fall – a Portrait
A priest walks into…(not a joke) .. the 4th floor chemo waiting room. He enters talking loudly about health care policies on his cell phone (must be “long distance”?), and sits, still talking, to wait for his name to be called. A grouping of chairs behind the priest hold an even older man, wearing a yarmulke, his head bowed, but in sleep. A wide-open-mouthed sleep. His wife is curled in a ball next to him reading a novel, hunched over the book. Behind her, facing another direction is a woman in a bright pink “I have breast cancer” chemo cap. There were many more groupings of “WAITERS” – patients and families – in this waiting room. Doing as the room description suggests – waiting.
Next to me, to my left, is a Vietnamese family. The patient, the man, is reclining half on a chair, legs on a table, wrapped in a white hospital blanket. His wife and daughter were vacillating between speaking English and a faster patter of their native tongue. To my right, angled where we could see each other, my husband is softly “speak-texting” and answering work emails. I’m sitting 12 feet away from the blanketed, moaning man having another of my ‘personal summers’ or hot flashes. I start fanning myself and my husband, Bill looks up and tells me “it’s cold in here”. So, I’m the odd man out, now?
One woman with two men, my age or older, enter the room and sit opposite me. The look at me and acknowledge me with a quick nod, but no words. One of the men has his hospital bracelet on. All three sit, then begin talking rapidly, stepping over each other’s words. Speaking Spanish, I think. By this time, having “fasted”, I’m hungry for tacos. Stereotyping, I know, but the language had a ‘spicy’ flavor. And tacos really aren’t Mexican food, so there’s that.
A woman, of at least my age, sits catty-corner from me. She’s on her iPhone checking Facebook. Wearing rolled-up cut-off jean shorts, with a grey hoodie fleece jacket over double-layered tank tops. Her hair was colored – medium golden brown, Clairol 5-C, if I’m not mistaken. The same color I used for years as a root touch up between salon visits. Her hair is almost the same darkness as her darkly-oranged, dry, wrinkled tan. Her left hand sports a minimum 3-carat diamond, and her left leg, crossed over her right, “pumps” non-stop while she now stares into space, taking a visual break from Facebook.
“Father Corona, sorry to keep you waiting,” an arriving assistant said loudly. The collared Priest stands up to go through the doors for treatment, and I’m so hungry, I visualize him as a lime-topped bottle of Corona. I hate beer, so this is a new mental low for me.
The elevator opens and in walks “Panama Jack” and wife to take his place in the room for waiting. His wife, evidently the patient, was skin over bones. Dressed in all black over her porcelain, clear white, crepe-y skin, they were a study in physical contrast. Soon, she perks up a bit with a cup of coffee from the hospitality bar.
Across the room there are at least eight other groupings of patients – with and without caregiver partners. They – we- all sit. Wait. Look. Read donated magazines and papers we wouldn’t read at home. Blanketing the entire 4th floor waiting room is a multilingual symphony of sound. Some who are seated are quiet, and some are somehow asleep. How close are they – we – to a long, final sleep? There’s no way to know. And that is what worries us most.
Sometimes, when Bill and I drive to New York for our visits and treatments, we drive past the new World Trade Center. I’m often reminded of the many lives lost in that terrorist attack almost 16 years ago. Such an unexpected, quick death of nearly 3,000 people. I remember watching on “live” television, the horror of seeing those who chose to fall from the building instead of staying to be consumed by the fires.
Today, as I look, as I wait in this “Waiting Room”, I wonder how many of us are slowly falling toward death – falling with one last gasp of freedom in the descending flight. How many of us will choose to stay – to be consumed by chemical or radioactive ‘fires’.
A second pink head-wrapped woman and her husband enter the waiting room and sit near me. I wonder if this will be the first or last time I will see her here. Her “flavor” of cancer usually has a better prognosis than mine. I choose to not introduce myself and start a conversation because I’m finding myself falling into the trap of anonymity of this room of Waiting. Today, I’m not only waiting but watching, wondering and writing. Observing from the “outside” while seated in the “inside” waiting for a treatment that may or may not be real. A lab rat in a holding cage of other lab rats. A worker for the future of cancer treatment or cure. I sat here in this room of waiting two weeks ago and started a new clinical trial. Today is my second lab observation of my taking a pill that may be real, or it may be a placebo. A cold chill comes over me, not a hot-flash this time, and I find myself longing to live through many more cool falls and cold, chilly winters.
I glance around the entire room. We are the cancer-workers. Waiting in our work building, not far from where two much larger buildings sat 16 years ago. Those buildings had, waiting inside them, thousands of unsuspecting workers starting their usual work on their last day on earth. Some who were in the buildings lived to remember. Some died and are remembered. And today, in the same town, I sit. Waiting. Watching. Wondering who here is falling slowly? Who is burning quickly? Who is in the right fire-escape? Who will make it out of here alive? If you are falling very slowly, do you know you are falling?
They call my name and it’s my turn to leave the waiting room. Thinking about all of this, I may take the stairs when I’m done.
July 10, 4th week of the ClarIDH1 trial – with the Agios-120 pills – 2 each day. Are they real or placebo? Are they working or not? We WAIT and see…….